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What Is Borax & Is It Safe?

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What Is Borax & Is It Safe?

Borax has long been touted as a green cleaning superstar, but what is borax, and how safe is it?

Borax is a salt derived from boric acid, and in cleaning recipes it can help boost stain-fighting and grease-cutting power. It’s used in all sorts of products and industries from making homemade cleaning supplies to replacing mercury in small-scale gold mining operations. You can even find borax in food products as a preservative, though its use in foods is banned here in the U.S.

How harmful could a salt be, right? This might be old news to some folks, but the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning flunked borax as a green ingredient. Kirsten Hudson at Organic Authority says:

“At the very least, borax can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Exposure to borax can also disrupt hormones and cause damage to the male reproductive system. A safety review by the Environmental Protection Agency found that chronic exposure to high doses of borax, or its cousin boric acid, causes testicular atrophy in male mice. Animal studies also show disruptions in ovulation and fertility in females when exposed to borax.

This isn’t the first time EWG has questioned borax’s safety. Back in 2011, they also recommended cutting borax out of your green cleaning regimen.

There isn’t any solid research yet on how borax affects humans when we’re exposed to small amounts through cleaning supplies, but if you operate according to the cautionary principle, it’s probably safest to avoid borax until it can be proven safe at those levels. On the next page, check out five borax-free cleaning recipes!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by AlishaV

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Read more: Conscious Consumer, Eco-friendly tips, Green, Home, Household Hints, Non-Toxic Cleaning, , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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3:41AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Interesting info...although i'm not sure how valid it is :/

2:39PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

I'm a vinegar and baking soda cleaner myself.....not big on borax, but we did buy some years ago for some non-cleaning project that I cannot remember.....

5:25PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Any time someone makes a statement about a [substance], one MUST consider the Source, as well as possible influencing factors, AND, put it into perspective, like,
---If plain, old fashioned borax is toxic, how toxic is it compared with the chemical cleaning agents usually being used??
---Who made the statement that it is toxic, and what is that based upon? Who is encouraging them to make that statement, and who stands to profit from making that statement?
---If plain, old fashioned Boric Acid is toxic, who said so, based on what data, and who stands to profit? At what dose or exposure is it toxic? [[water is toxic, if one takes in too much of it!!]]

5:21PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

I've not used it but maybe I would if I didn't forget to.

1:28PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

I heard somewhere that there is a certain type of Boric Acid to avoid, and that it's only in Europe, so this makes me leery in either direction. I'm not quite ready to give up Borax, especially when it's stated it causes skin irritation, because I have extremely sensitive skin, of which Borax is one of the gentlest things I've found I can use. This contradicts some statements made against it. I'm not trying to convince anyone to use it, but I'm saying that you should question not using it just as much as using it.

7:20AM PST on Nov 22, 2012


12:09AM PST on Nov 21, 2012

This is a fear mongering exercise as borax actually has benefits to the human body but cannot be patented, therefore out comes the smear/fear rhetoric from big Pharma. Just look up on the net how useful it is, stop letting others think for you.

11:21AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Thank you.

9:06AM PST on Nov 19, 2012


8:01AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

PS: STOP torturing animals!!! And yes, even mice are animals.....Grrrrrr.

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